By John White, Matt Karst, and Chelsea McClain
Every Association Management Company (AMC) needs a software solution that streamlines tasks, improves efficiency, and maximizes time management. Choosing the right Association Management Software (AMS) is crucial, particularly for nonprofits, which tend to be more fiscally conservative. Navigating the types of software, their benefits, and the relationship between the AMC and their AMS can be overwhelming. Here are some tips for choosing wisely.
Why should we use an AMS?
AMCs with either one client or a growing client list need a “one-stop-shop” to address every task, and that’s what an AMS offers. While some systems do this better than others, all of them have these things in common:
- Streamlining tasks to make the AMC more efficient so more can be accomplished with less people.
- Creating agility within your AMC’s staff by allowing employees to complete tasks in the same way each time. This makes repetitive tasks more habitual, which enables employees to do them quicker.
- Allowing employees who work for multiple clients to quickly and easily move from similar tasks for one client to the next.
- Allowing many onboarding tasks for new employees to be supervised by many different people.
- Allowing the AMC’s staff members to make position changes within the company without nearly as much training.
What are the different types of AMS systems available?
There are three types of AMS systems, all allowing for varying levels of control and customization. The three types are categorized as: Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Enterprise (Local), and Hosted (meaning the AMC is responsible for installing their own servers, software, and computers to access and run the AMS). The three types of AMS’ are listed in order of price, with SaaS being the cheapest option and Hosted being the most expensive.
SaaS is not overly customizable, but there is a high degree of ease-of-use which appeals to many. SaaS is usually a subscription-based system, where the user needs only to subscribe, gain access, and run the program on their computer or mobile device. SaaS systems can be thought of as like a hosting device.
Enterprise and Hosted AMS’ are more involved than the subscription-based service and offer greater benefits and flexibility. The most notable benefit is the access that both types of AMS grant to the AMC. Nearly all components of an Enterprise AMS are customizable, however the equipment utilized to maintain the performance of the AMS is all held and owned by the provider of the AMS. Hosted AMS’ are entirely under the control of the AMC.
Deciding which AMS fits your AMC
A good AMS should address all aspects of your AMC. A great AMS can effectively and easily manage membership, registration, meeting content, meeting management, accreditation, enduring content, virtual content, webinars, and more, all at the same time and with the same interface. Choosing the best AMS for your organization will be based primarily on the budget of the organization and the individual needs of that organization.
Before you start your research:
- Determine all the needs of the organization.
- Begin visualizing what the ideal AMS looks like for your organization. Think about specific functionality you will require, the technological expertise of the users, and the general usability that you think will work best for your employees. Try to envision your needs 10-15 years down the road.
- Finally, determine your budget.
If your budget allows and you think you will need heavy customization, look for an Enterprise or Hosted solution. If your budget is smaller and the level of customization is lower, look at SaaS AMS solutions.
A Healthy AMC-AMS Relationship
The number-one step to ensuring a healthy AMC-AMS relationship is setting a common goal of continuous innovation and a commitment to excellence. Ensuring that everyone is on the same page is a crucial base for establishing a mutually beneficial relationship. Communication is key here, and there’s nothing wrong with over-communicating.
The AMS provider should be aware of exactly what your AMC is looking to accomplish. The AMS needs to know your desired level of customization, level of access needed for developers, and everything in between. AMS providers have a different set of expectations from every single AMC, specificity in what your AMC needs is required for your AMS to accomplish exactly what you want from it. As long as there is an open dialogue between the AMC and the AMS and common goals are shared, a healthy AMC-AMS relationship can be created.